Reviewed by Tori
Dr. Charlotte (Charlie) Stone is an expert in criminal psychology. She also sees dead people. She regularly faces down some of the most vicious and sadistic serial killers that prison has to offer. As the surviving victim of a serial killer herself, Charlotte needs to know what fuels the madness in these monsters.
FBI agent Tony Bartoli knows who Charlotte is. He knows what she went through and he knows what she can do. He needs her help because a teenager is missing and it looks like after fifteen years, the serial killer she faced, is back. Charlotte doesn’t want to take this case but knows she may be the only one who can stop this monster. Soon, Charlotte is locked in a cunning game of lies and secrets as she uses all her gifts to hunt down a madman who is bent on making Charlotte his last victim.
Karen Robards The Last Victim is a psychological paranormal romance suspense. The story begins with a look at Charlie’s past; retracing each step through her ordeal with a serial killer. When Charlie was sixteen, her best friend and family were slaughtered by a serial killer and her best friend’s body was left on the boardwalk. Charlie’s identification to the police sent the Boardwalk Killer into hiding. We then flash to the present and our story begins fifteen years later. While the premise promises an exciting PNR thriller, the actual story and characters failed to engage me. It’s not that the overall story was bad; I just felt that the romance and main conflict fight so hard for dominance we end up cheated out of both. The story starts out energetic. We are immediately clued into the main conflict and an equally important sub plot. There is not much suspense and anticipation as we are led through the investigation. Since this is told from Charlie’s POV, we fail to see the grit of the investigation, only the profiling that Charlie handles. The plot and sub plots are laid out in dull and uninspiring fashion.
The primary romance is strange and a bit uncomfortable. Charlie has been meeting with convicted serial killer Michael Garland as part of her research. When he is stabbed, Charlotte is the last person to be with him when he dies and this causes a tether between Michael and Charlotte. Michael comes off offensive and creepy, using extreme sexual language and gestures to intimidate Charlotte. Once he passes into the afterlife, he and Charlotte begin to flirt and the sexual tension between them becomes intense. The chemistry is hot, but there is a lot of emotional pontification in here that drags the story down. I felt like Ms. Robards was trying too hard to convince me they were made for one another, regardless of their past. Their dialogue, especially Charlie’s, is almost bi polar in its revelations. She’s attracted to him and extols his manly attributes, while at the same time berating herself for falling for a serial killer. Plus, it’s hard to separate yourself from the fact that Michael is a convicted serial killer. There is nothing revealed to Charlie or us to disabuse us of this though the storyline hints at future revelations.
The secondary characters were uninspiring also. Again, we deal with them in the present and only on the job. You never get to know them as individuals. There are two dimensional figures used to round out what is essentially Charlie’s and Michael’s story. There is a light flirtation between Charlie and FBI agent Tony but it also feels forced and there wasn’t a hint of chemistry there. I was also disappointed in the villain’s characterization. I really would have loved to spend sometime in the their head, if only to get a clue to their motivation. He is only alluded to and never seen till the very end. The ending comes hard and fast, leaving me feeling like I missed part of the story.
While I was fan of Ms. Robards earlier work, I’m afraid that this particular installment wasn’t what I have come to expect from her.
Overall Rating: D